The SpongeBob Musical Suspends Disbelief to Engage
The SpongeBob Musical had a visually engaging run at Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, NY last week. With talented voices and colorful sets, the playful energy transformed the theatre to a live cartoon.
Let me begin by saying that I am a SpongeBob novice. Perhaps it’s an age thing; except for being aware of the TV show and knowing the song Bikini Bottom Day from said musical, I really had no idea what to expect. What I was immediately taken with were the colors of the set. Straight out of the neon psychedelic ’60s, complete with black light and strobe effects, the set was visually engaging. The set was cartoonish in nature, playfully bright and stimulating, with cardboard boxes and ladders creating a huge volcanic mountain. The set was unique and cheerful. At one point later in the play, cardboard pop-ups became sets and the musical conductor acts out a riot in the town of Bikini Bottom in the second act with miniature dolls on what appears to be a game board of the city.
Like most good theatre, there is a requirement to suspend disbelief. The musical is set underwater, and the characters include many varieties of talking fish, crustaceans and a talking squirrel. As I was informed by a helpful usher at intermission, if the squirrel thing threw me, clearly, I did not know the world of Sponge Bob. Also interesting is the idea that the townfolk are able to grill Krabby patties and why they are being grilled by a crab.
The plot is simple: the underwater volcano is about to blow. By all calculations, the residents of Bikini Bottom have only one day to either save their town or get blown to smithereens. Through this journey, we are given to tales of friendship, jealousy, an evildoer, and the lost and found of self-esteem and self-worth.
Truly outstanding is the energy that this young company packs. For most, this is their first national tour and they are all out to prove their mettle, and prove it they do. Led by the wonderfully talented Lorenzo Pugliese as Sponge Bob, the musical focuses on SpongeBob (who is on stage the entire production).. Pugliese has an amazing athleticism added to his ability to act sing and dance. He pairs well with Beau Bradshaw as his BFF Patrick Starfish. Daria Pilar Redus shines as Sandy Cheeks and Tristan McIntyre is spot-on as the evil Sheldon Plankton.
The highlight of the show, however, is the second act tap number that rivals any number from the old big-time Broadway musicals. Featuring outstanding Cody Cooley as Squidward Q, the dance demonstrates how to balance unique costumes with fancy dance technique. Wearing tentacles, Cooley wows the crowd with his chorus of hot pink sequined dancing anomalies. Based on the quality of the talent, the show’s young cast of 25 performers obviously houses some future Broadway leading men and women.
The show’s music made note when the Broadway production opened for its collaboration of rock musicians including Sara Bareilles, Jonathon Coulton, Panic! At the Disco, Lady Antebellum, John Legend, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith to name but a few. The music all works well has a very familiar feel to it and will make you leave the theater dancing up the aisle.
SpongeBob is great fun, no matter what your age. Some of the comedy will definitely swim past the younger members of the audience, but the show guarantees to keep everyone engaged and smiling. Without fear of giving away any plot turns, Bikini Bottom is saved, everyone swims happily ever after and certainly leaves the lobster trap open for a sequel.
SpongeBob began its national tour at Proctors Theater in Schenectady. Proctors includes SpongeBob in its impressive lineup of shows this fall and winter.